On Persistence and the Heart of Philanthropy

Margaret Coad
Associate Director, Project Philanthropy
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
When I see this picture, I reflect on a time ten years ago when health reasons forced me to end a touring music career. I fell into a deep clinical depression with suicidal ideation for a solid 2-3 years, and was convinced that whatever was next would never be as fulfilling, meaningful, authentic, and vibrant as my time performing and meeting people on the road and in the music community.
But here’s the thing about an ending which we all know to be true: no matter how abrupt, how painful, how humiliating, a closed door is always an opening to some new chapter. And sometimes that chapter is an iteration of yourself that unfolds to be a stronger, sharper, more compassionate and wiser self than you believed you could become. Parts of you that you thought were lost are somehow appearing in new and interesting ways, and your past experiences (no matter how colorful) become unique assets in your career.
When I first entered the philanthropy field, I was in it for the insurance, to pay the bills, and a necessary distraction from my interior world. But now it is all coming together. This field is not unlike the music industry, in that we gather to be seen, to belong, to contribute, to be recognized with inherent value, to do something higher than one small self, and to experience human life to the fullest. It is about expressing our core values and identity in our everyday life, work, speech, and action. 
The lesson is the same for both spaces: be patient, be persistent, keep showing up, and make connections. Step into your light and lean into the mic. People are there listening to you because they themselves want to shine. Give them permission and let yourself do the same.
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